Boys Will Be Boys
I just read The Role of Women in the Church, another typical male supremacy-endorsing document, and I’m really tired of such things. But because these familiar claims and arguments keep being promoted, there is a need to keep refuting them, beginning here with their Introduction.
“Western culture has undergone a dramatic shift in its view of women.”There’s a good reason for that: Christian women who believed the Bible instead of the culture, and got government to do away with laws that forbade them full status as grown, free human beings. They recognized that culture had always been male-supremacist and always denied that in Christ we are all one, and there is no more division on the basis of class, ethnicity, or biological gender (Gal. 3:28). But this document begins with the same false premise: that “western culture” is a bad thing that caused women, who apparently are unable to read the Bible for themselves, to blindly chase after silly things like wanting to be treated as adults of sound mind whom Jesus died for.
“This shift has caused a rift within the culture and within the church.”No, it has sought to repair the rift. Any teaching that promotes division, on any basis but God’s truth, is dividing the Body of Christ. The teaching of male preeminence divides that Body right down the middle. The only reason the Body remains divided is because the privileged half doesn’t take kindly to losing its control over the unprivileged half.
“As with all issues, University Presbyterian Church desires to be biblical above all else.”Being “Biblical” is what drove those women to actively oppose their oppression. The justification made for keeping men in first place are identical to those that had been used to justify slavery in the US (see this article). So the real question is not who is being Biblical, but who is trying to make their interpretation on a par with divine scripture.
“Yet, the progressive model obliterates the God-given differences of women and men.”This is an attempt to make one’s conclusion a “given” or foundational premise. Who says that God ordained “differences” beyond the biological? Where is this written plainly? What is “the progressive model”, and how exactly does it “obliterate” the difference between male and female? This statement is loaded to guarantee the desired outcome: God puts men first. But God still is not “a respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34) and still “looks on the heart” instead of the flesh (1 Sam. 16:7). To presume that “the Bible’s teaching on the different ways in which men and women may serve in the church” is a fact instead of the point being debated ends all discussion before it even begins; it imposes its interpretations as being “Biblical” and undeniable.
“the Session adopted the following paper as its position on the role of women in ministry”That’s fine, but surely they know that women, as adults and co-heirs, are not looking for their permission to exercise fully the gifts of the Spirit. To our own master we stand or fall (Rom. 14:4), and with Peter and John we say that it is better to listen to God rather than men (Acts 4:19).
“The Bible prohibits women from serving as elders”No, it doesn’t.
“Women may serve in any capacity in the church and may use their spiritual gifts in every way that any non-elder man may serve, except that women may not shepherd men”Again, I rejoice that as a woman I am not looking for men’s permission to do anything. I will serve where God has led me to serve, and shepherd whomever the Spirit tells me to shepherd. And if anyone appeals to some imaginary line between “official” meetings and “informal” ones, I defy them to show where scripture draws this line. Instead, Jesus said “neither here nor in Jerusalem but in spirit and truth” (John 4:21,23) and “where two or three are gathered” (Mt. 18:20).
Now to the document itself. The Introduction there presumes that all who argue against the suppression of women in the church have a problem with Paul, but a lot of us do not. Instead, we hold that Paul has been misinterpreted, and that this problem is exacerbated by the denial of cultural influences and other pertinent aspects of context. We also object to denying cultural influence upon scripture when it may support egalitarian arguments, but allowing such influences when it does not appear to threaten male preeminence.
“For many centuries, the church did not let the Scripture lead it away from the general oppression of women conducted by society. The church should have seen that the Bible does not teach the inferiority of women.”Here they admit that the cultural norm has always been male supremacy, not feminism. To promote this male dominance is truly to bow to culture. It is commendable that they admit this, but they will go on to promote it anyway. And as for the admission that women are not inferior, this immediately brings up the issue of the claim that people can play an inferior role for life, based upon genetics alone, without being inferior. This is a contradiction and an absurdity. A woman is a woman by virtue of her biology alone, or we couldn’t tell newborn boys from newborn girls. She cannot change who she is biologically, so any statement about her as a female is a statement of being, not role. So for a woman to be forced to play a subservient role for life is for her to be inferior in being.
Then they convey their wish to remain unified regardless of personal conviction on this matter, but this too is impossible. If a woman is called to ministry by the Holy Spirit, how can she obey that call if her church forbids her to exercise it as any male would? How can men whose personal conviction fears a “Jezebel spirit” from any woman preaching remain under such preaching? Either women can preach or they can’t, and if your personal conviction doesn’t match the church’s rules, then you have no choice but to leave. Would they expect a non-white member to remain in a church that believes only whites can serve in leadership and teach scripture with authority to a mixed congregation? If everybody goes along to get along, somebody is being oppressed.
Under The Trinitarian Pattern, the first thing we see is a favored proof-text: 1 Cor. 11:3. They begin their interpretation with an invented and loaded term, “headship”, and thus impose their opinion on the text here that Paul is talking about authority. This is highly disputable at best, but the document states it as indisputable fact. It presumes there is such a thing as “headship” and then presumes to link it to Christ’s authority. I’ve covered this whole “headship” thing before, and this passage as well, so I won’t go over that again (my Nicolaitan book is the handiest place to see that; just go to the Downloads page). But one must ask why the Trinity has anything at all to do with this.
In this verse Paul does not follow a top-down hierarchical pattern, but instead lists a very strange order: head of man is Christ, head of woman is man, head of Christ is God. Regardless of the very disputed meaning of “head” in Greek, we cannot lightly brush away this order. Why didn’t Paul say “God is the head of Christ, who is the head of males, who are the heads of females”? Why didn’t he use something like his list of gifts to the church in 1 Cor. 12:28, where we see words like “first… second… third… then”? Clearly Paul is NOT giving a pecking order here. Instead, the most straightforward interpretation is that this is a chronological order, which we must emphasize is NOT inherently hierarchical, or the animals in creation week would be above humans. So what Paul most likely means to convey here, to introduce the topic of literal heads and coverings, is that Christ was the source of man, man was the source of woman, and the Trinity (God, not just “Father”) was the source of Christ.
But they leave out verses 11 and 12: IN THE LORD woman and man are not independent, for though the first woman came from the first man, every man since then has come from a woman. BUT EVERYTHING COMES FROM GOD. This is a clear and undeniable refutation of any notions of hierarchy in the Body of Christ. More about that shortly.
So point 1 in this section simply ignores all this and asserts that there is “headship”. And as I’ve said many times, the question is not the quality of rule, but the fact of rule. If rule/hierarchy itself is wrong, then it matters not how nicely or benevolently one exercises it.
Under point 2 they seem to deliberately ignore the fact that hierarchy between equals can never be permanent or involuntary. They admit that the Son VOLUNTARILY took on a subordinate role, yet they follow it with “obeying the Father”. Nothing can be voluntary and forced at the same time, so either Jesus HAD to do what the Father ruled over him to do, or he CHOSE to TEMPORARILY lower himself and only then, and for a time, obey the Father as an example FOR ALL BELIEVERS, not just women. This is completely different from imposing lifetime, involuntary subservience on half the human race, and on such a ridiculous basis as one’s reproductive organs.
But notice that they never mention the Holy Spirit in this alleged analogy. The Trinity is THREE, not TWO, and they are all spirit, not flesh, such that none are “male” or “female”. How can this Trinity be any kind of analogy to marriage? It can’t.
Point 3’s title is just incomprehensible. But at least in the ensuing discussion they distance themselves from the extreme (consistent!) view that women are basically slaves to men. And they realize that God gave both male and female rule over the earth, and that both are joint-heirs. But only now do they mention 1 Cor. 11:11-12, yet still hedge their bets for some one-way authority nonetheless.
Then they try to argue against the view I gave, that Paul is talking about chronology and sources here instead of hierarchy. But their rebuttal claims that God “did not create Christ”, which is a red herring, because nobody says God CREATED him! Being the source of Christ is nothing more than what scripture says in Ps. 2:7, quoted also in Acts. 13:33, Heb. 1:5, and Heb. 5:5, as well as the passage in Phil. 2:5-11 they mentioned already. This entry of Jesus came at a point in time, and this is what we mean by God being the source of Christ; we are NOT saying Christ was a created being! And it was both the Father and the Spirit who conceived the body of Jesus (Luke 1:35).
Then they try to address the inherent contradiction in rejecting slavery but upholiding male supremacy, but they use their debunked Trinitarian argument to do so. They think that if they can tie female subordination to the Trinity while slavery has no such connection, that this justifies a pivotal difference. I have to say this is a tactic I haven’t seen before, but the reason for this should be obvious.
Next they try defending against the inherent contradiction of “equality of personhood but inequality of function”, once again by appealing to their debunked Trinitarian analogy. Again they admit that Jesus TOOK ON a role of submission, but ignore the huge difference of being born into a permanent subservient role. This is not a matter of “feminist” bias but simple logic and coherent reasoning. They have to appeal to absurdity to keep this argument.
Since they go on to build upon their debunked Trinitarian basis, there’s little point in commenting further. But I will mention the old “tie-breaker” claim, just for fun. The fact is that they cannot escape making women into virtual children by making males permanent, designated “tie-breakers”, because they are saying there is an intrinsic superiority to the male when it comes to decision-making. These are statements of being, and thus of inequality, which contradicts their repeated claims to the contrary.
Other arguments to follow cite the same fallacious arguments we hear all the time, along with making up artificial distinctions such as between “ruling” elders and “non-ruling” elders, and presuming that any believer has any authority at all over any other believer. Those who wrote scripture could do so because they were given the teachings from God, so anyone who does not claim their writings are scripture is admitting they have no special authority.
Well, at least they were true to their goal cited in the main Introduction: “it is not an exegetical paper”. But a pronouncement or position paper without scriptural exegesis is nothing but pretense; it makes a claim based upon fallacies and a few common proof-texts and then says “can’t we all just get along”? I’d summarize their whole paper like so: “We aren’t trying to throw our weight around or anything, but here is what God says, and now let’s all just stop this questioning of our interpretation and let the boys tell the girls what God says.”
Sorry boys, but us gurlz ain’t playin’ by your rules anymore. We’re following the Jesus that read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” We’re following the Jesus who treated women like adults, who entrusted them with the first preaching of the gospel of the risen Christ, who sent his Spirit on male and female alike at Pentecost, and whose Body must not be divided.